SAN PERLITA — San Perlita senior Noah Olivarez used one word to describe this year’s senior class: special.
With the regular season wrapped up and a second straight district title under their belts, San Perlita’s five seniors — Olivarez, Bryan Herrera, Julian Herrera, Parker Willis and Frank Rincon — are set for their final playoff run.
The five grew up together from pre-K through their high school years. Growing up, all they have ever done was play basketball and text each other at 3 a.m. to meet at the court to play basketball.
“We moved up together and played ball growing up,” Olivarez said. “Playing with these guys is so much fun and it is special. I remember playing late at night, that is all we would do. This is a great group, there are not many schools out there that put in the work that we do, and (we) push each other. Some teams revolve around one player, but that is not us, we play as one.”
Olivarez is a three-year letterman, Bryan Herrera has been for two years, Ricon for one and Willis for two.
The senior group has put together a strong resume the past few seasons. Along with the back-to-back district titles, San Perlita has also brought home a bi-district and area round trophy the past two seasons and has put together a 33-5 district record during the past four seasons.
For senior Julian Herrera, playing with this group and for the Trojans is something he wears on his sleeve.
“I always have had my dad’s passion for this game,” Julian said. “I have been able to carry that on for him and my family. I have always played physical, that is something I just grew up with when I played growing up. We have what it takes to go far. We fell short last year, but we are ready to get going.”
What makes this unit just as special is, since current coach Nataniel Garza’s arrival at San Perlita, all he has known is this group of seniors. From their freshman year till now, Garza has seen them grow up through the program on and off the court.
“This is a tight-knit group, they play well and love one another,” Garza said. “This is the first senior group that I have been able to see all four years. They mean a lot to me not only because of that, but I have seen them grown up. I remember when they were just freshman, they were a lot smaller and raw. Over the years they developed, and it will be emotional to see this group graduate.”
The Trojans might not have the bells and whistles of a Class 5A or 6A program, but they have begun to create a winning culture under Garza and have helped the likes of Santa Rosa by putting small-school basketball on the map.
“I have a great relationship with Coach Garza,” Bryan Herrera said. “He knows how to teach us how to play basketball, and he has us prepared each week. This community here is great. They come out and support us every game. Just because we are not a big program, we still have the same amount of support and we have just as much passion.”
The Trojans will begin their playoff journey at 7 p.m. tonight against Benavides in the Class 2A bi-district round at Falfurrias.